No position is more unpredictable in fantasy football than kickers. Year after year after year, no position has a lower correlation between where they're drafted before the season and where they finish after the season. No position has a lower correlation between how they score in one week and how they score in the next. No position has a lower correlation between projected points and actual points.
In addition, placekicker is the position that has the smallest spread between the best players and the middle-of-the-pack players for fantasy. Finally, most fantasy GMs will only carry one kicker at a time, which means there are a dozen or more starting kickers sitting around on waivers at any given time. Given all of this, it rarely makes sense to devote resources to the position. Instead, GMs are best served by rotating through whichever available kicker has the best weekly matchup.
Every week, I'll rank the situations each kicker finds himself in (ignoring the talent of the kicker himself) to help you find perfectly startable production off the waiver wire.
If you've played fantasy football for a while, you're undoubtedly familiar with the common recommendation that you not bother drafting a kicker until your very last pick of the draft. You might not be sure why this is the best way to go, however.
In 2013, Chase Stuart looked at average draft position (ADP) data dating back to the year 2000. For each position, he calculated how many points over replacement owners got on average from the first player drafted at a position, from the second, from the third, and so on.
In 2005, the first quarterback off the board was Peyton Manning, who had a strong season and finished the year 3rd at his position. In 2008, the first quarterback off the board was Tom Brady, who got injured in his first game and produced essentially no value. Average together Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and every other quarterback who came off the board first in any given year, and the average value of the top quarterback selected was about 80 fantasy points over replacement.
Repeat that process for every player at every position and you get the following graph:
Pay close attention to that blue line at the bottom. That's what kind of value you can expect from drafting a kicker. The first kicker off the board in any given year typically outscores the 12th kicker off the board in any given year by a whopping 2.5 points. Not 2.5 points per game, but 2.5 points total. Over the full season.
So there's no compelling reason to be the first GM to draft a kicker. Or the second GM, or the third. For that matter, there's no real reason to be the eighth or the tenth. In fact, unless your league mandates it, there's really no reason to draft a kicker at all!
Indeed, it's possible to get very competitive production from your kicker spot without spending a single resource on it all season long simply by grabbing whatever dregs and castoffs your league has left on the waiver wire and starting it every week. Which is what this column is for— we'll identify mediocre kickers with phenomenal matchups who are likely to be free agents in your league and track how they perform throughout the season. And since accountability is a big deal around here, we'll track our results so you can see just how much production you really can get by treating kickers are interchangeable pieces in a larger machine.